Dani - Bilingual Parent Q&A

Dani - Bilingual Parent Q&A

Dani - Bilingual Parent Q&A

We’ll also highlight bilingual families on the blog this summer. First up is the Oullette family, who has found unique ways to incorporate Spanish language learning into their homeschooling routine. They share their tips on using the one-parent-one-language approach, finding a bilingual community, and keeping language learning playful in their home. Read on for inspiration on how to navigate your family’s own bilingual journey.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Dani O.: Married to my high school sweetheart, raising three kids ages 6, 3, and 7 months. We are nonnative Spanish speakers homeschooling in both languages! We enjoy keeping active, running/lifting weights, and own two businesses. We have big dreams to travel and world school.

Why is raising a bilingual child important to you?

Dani O.: Bilingualism breaks down so many barriers. I tell my kids it’s their superpower and that they can connect with 80% of the people in the world with their two languages alone — not to mention any others they may study in the future. Also, as a nonnative speaker of our target language, I, perhaps selfishly, don’t want to lose my fluency in a language I worked so hard to learn, and also love that my husband and I can model a growth mindset and failing forward on a daily basis, because we are always learning alongside them.

Which languages are you helping your child(ren) learn?

Dani O.: Spanish and English

Are you using any particular approach to teaching your child(ren) multiple languages? (i.e., one parent-one language (OPOL), only speaking in that language at home, etc.)

Dani O.: Our approach has changed a bit over the past few years, but currently we are mostly OPOL, with me speaking almost 100% Spanish with the kids, and my husband a mix but heavier on English lately as the kids have shifted to speaking both more equally now that they have so many activities in English and are more socially aware (i.e., if we are surrounded by English speakers they prefer to use English, although with me they’ll still use Spanish to varying degrees even in front of English speakers).

When did you start your bilingual journey with your child(ren)?

Dani O.: I dipped my toes in when our oldest was a baby, reading Spanish books and attending Spanish library story time, but didn’t fully switch to using Spanish with her ‘til she was 21 months old. My other two kids have had that full exposure since birth, though in the first six  months I did find it harder to use Spanish with my youngest two.

How do you weave bilingual learning into your everyday routine?

Dani O.: As mentioned we own a few businesses that we work from home, so my husband and I are both present. He uses Spanish as much as he can, especially when playing with the kids. I speak almost 100% Spanish with the kids all day. We also homeschool my oldest and do a bit of Spanish schoolwork just about every day. We have started a Spanish-language co-op with a few like-minded friends and are hoping to incorporate that more too. We also see friends or have babysitters typically at least once or twice a week that speak Spanish with our kids.

How do you keep bilingual learning playful?

Dani O.: We play as all families do, but in Spanish! We hardly do any screen time with our kids, but when we do it’s in Spanish. We do lots of open-ended imaginary play, books and podcasts they are interested in, etc., all in Spanish as much as we can. At this point the kids are still amenable to that and prefer Spanish content, and use it between themselves most of the time.

How do you plan to maintain this language learning when your child starts school? OR How did you maintain this language learning when your child started school?

Dani O.: While we do homeschool, our kids attend an English-language co-op once or twice a week, plus other sports and activities in English — recently we’ve seen the balance tip a bit toward being more balanced between languages rather than heavier toward Spanish. And our oldest especially, is addressing us in English more in front of English-speaking friends and family. While this is positive, I’m also working to add in more Spanish input currently. Making even more time for read-alouds in Spanish, and especially more opportunities for them to use their Spanish actively with friends. We even let our daughter have two birthday parties this year because she requested one in Spanish — normally I would say no way to two parties, but I was willing to do so for this reason. I’ve been reading books on fun activities to build the minority language and making sure her Spanish school especially is fun and rich.

What is a misconception you think people have about teaching children more than one language?

Dani O.: That kids will be confused or delayed.

Do you have any incredible language-learning resources to share with other parents?

Dani O.: Soooo many. I will say that the biggest thing that helped me was working on my own fluency and being persistent about seeking out friends who are bilingual to practice with, both in online groups and in person. It has taken dedication and some failures but has been so worth it, and we have made some dear friends from all over the world.